Not getting college degree was 'bothering' NFL star Robert Mathis
By Paul Gattis, The Huntsville Times
May 15, 2010, 8:00AM
new mathisDave Dieter/Huntsville TimesNFL All-Pro Robert Mathis graduated with honors Friday at Alabama A&M.HUNTSVILLE, AL -- On his left hand, you can see that Robert Mathis has reached the football pinnacle of winning a Super Bowl by the gigantic, diamond-studded ring he wore Friday.
And you can look at his NFL career and see that he is one of the NFL's best because he was chosen to twice play in the Pro Bowl.
But even with that success, the former Alabama A&M star still had a hole he had to fill in his life. And he filled it Friday night by receiving his college degree -- graduating *** laude in physical education.
"I always like to finish what I start," Mathis said in an interview with The Times before walking with more than 500 other graduates. "It's been bothering me. I've been blessed enough to win the Super Bowl, go to two (Super Bowls) but you want that degree.
"You were here four years, put in the work and the hard labor and you want to reap the benefits of your labor."
Mathis played at A&M from 2000-2003 and has been an anchor at defensive end for the Indianapolis Colts ever since.
The Colts won the Super Bowl on Feb. 4, 2007 and Mathis was a backup in the 2008 Pro Bowl and a starter in 2009.
All the while, he was back in Huntsville working on earning his degree. He went back to school in 2006, completing the final 15 hours of undergraduate work one class at a time in the offseason.
"You never know what life holds for you in the future," Mathis said. "A play here, a play there and it's all snatched away from you. You have to have a safety net."
If Mathis wasn't inspiring enough as an NFL star, his legacy at Alabama A&M has perhaps been cemented by returning to school to get his degree.
"He didn't leave the school and said to heck with the studies," A&M coach Anthony Jones said. "We knew he was going to be drafted but he stayed in good academic standing, which is very, very important.
"Even though it was an academic bridge, he didn't burn any bridges. So when he decided it was time to come back, he was able to come back and get back in the flow of things and get this thing completed."
As Mathis, wearing his cap and gown, prepared to get in line to enter Louis Crews Stadium not to a cheering crowd but to "Pomp and Circumstance," he and Jones embraced.
"We're proud of him," Jones said, "very proud."